Relaxed Charl hopes Leopard Creek will work its charm

It might seem strange ahead of South Africa’s richest tournament, but Charl Schwartzel is looking forward to some rest ahead of the Alfred Dunhill Championship which starts on Thursday at Leopard Creek Country Club.

Schwartzel is fresh off a staggering 11-shot triumph in last week’s Thailand Golf Championship on the Asian Tour, but it has been a tough year for the 2011 Masters champion.

“If this wasn’t Leopard Creek I would not have played,” said Schwartzel. “If it was any other tournament I would have pulled out, but this is one of those golf courses that I like the most. You don’t get much better than the setting at Leopard Creek, and I figured I could get myself going on that.”

Schwartzel won the event when it first moved to Leopard Creek in 2004, when he was still just 20 years old, and it was almost impossible to believe that he had already come third in a South African Open Championship.

He’s come second four other times in the event, and, as tired as he is, he’s clearly able to get his juices flowing when he steps on the fairways at Leopard Creek.

“I suppose there are so many factors here. The golf course does suit my eye, and I like what I see,” he said. “I love being out in the bush, and you don’t get much more in the bush than this. It’s such a relaxing atmosphere, and of top of that the course is in such great shape. All of those things go my way.”

His Thailand victory ended a 20-month victory drought which stretched all the way back to his Augusta triumph in April 2011.

“It’s been a tough year,” said the world number 23. “I haven’t played well and I picked up an injury, so it was nice to finally start playing better golf. It was even better to see things fall in place last week.

“It was just one of those weeks. I hit so many good shots and gave myself so many chances, and when I did hit the odd bad shot I managed to make some good saves. Those are the key, they’re probably bigger than most of the birdies. They keep the momentum going and you seem to make a birdie the very next, and it’s such a swing mentally to be able to do that. It was nice to play that solid and not make many bogeys.”

When Schwartzel gets into that error-free zone, there are not many players who can live with the pace he sets – even if he’s tired.

“I’m trying to finish the season now, I’m not thinking about any starts,” said Schwartzel. “But it would be nice to do well here and contend.”

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